As many pats on the back the marketing industry likes to give one another, we’re not doing very well in the “social space.” There are stacks of PowerPoint presentations containing Best Practices like stay topical and ask questions to invite conversation and be personable. These Best Practices are true. But are they really the best? I sure as hell hope not. It leads to an onslaught of brands clogging social feeds with sad little ploys for attention:
Summer is here! Don’t forget to stay cool with [soda brand] or [ice cream brand]! Tell us, what are your big plans?
[Fun stylized image of the product in a silly circumstance]
Like this post if you can relate!
Oh … Mondays. Like this if you hate them, too!
Brands in social media have become the equivalent of middle-school cheerleaders in a locker room or a Garfield comic strip without the punch line—meaningless chatter and shouting.
Look at me being clever. See the comment from Matt Whitaker? The reason he Liked this is because he’s put together those Best Practice PowerPoints. So have I. And I’ve written endless amounts of Facebook status updates and Tweets for brands like the ones I mock above. A la Seinfeld, it’s funny because it’s true.
But… that’s enough of that.
We need to do something more. Or, dare I say it, something less. Do brands have to post every day? Multiple times a day? Or, consider this liberating possibility: perhaps some brands shouldn’t be in social at all. Throw up a Facebook and Google+ page for search reasons and call it a day. In fact, maybe post once about how you’re there but aren’t going to annoy people with empty updates. I’d bet the authenticity would go far with consumers, who let’s not forget, are people first.
The reason people use social media is to connect with others. To share experiences, to share what makes them who they are, to debate and laugh and be real. They can get billboards shouting at them on the highway. They don’t need it on Facebook and Twitter.
Our failure as brands in social media has been the belief there is a code to crack. Much like people, every brand is different. There is no magic formula. Once we accept that we can enjoy the freedom that is trying out new, real things and seeing what happens. Here are three steps to start:
- Know who you are. Besides the product you make, what does your brand care about? What don’t you care about? These are your guardrails.
- Create something you can share. Not just your product. Use the guardrails above and make something new. A song. A video. A giant slip-and-slide in a park. Get creative, or hire someone else who is.
- Be real. Meaning, actual human beings.
The last one is the trickiest, but most important. I was once the “voice” for a consumer-packaged good on Facebook. I remember I’d often post something and a Fan (this is back when they were Fans) would comment with frustration I could almost hear: Who IS this? These Fans wanted to know who was behind the curtain. Because we all know deodorant sticks and caffeinated beverages can’t type.
I’m not suggesting every brand slaps the face of a brand manager or intern on their Facebook page or Twitter feed. But…maybe. Ask yourself this: If your face and identity were attached to the things your brand posts, would you be posting the crap you have been?
I write this whole thing out of empathy. If you’ve worked in this space, you’ll relate to this. And I pity the poor marketing soul who refreshed their social media dashboard to find this gem:
Rob Delaney is everyone’s favorite comedian on Twitter. He shows no brand (including Mitt Romney) mercy. And good for him for keeping us honest. If the idea of your face attached to whatever silly thing your brand is about to post doesn’t stop you, consider what Rob Delaney could do to it. And, if you do fall victim to Rob, remember #3 and have a sense of humor at your own expense. He respects and retweets that.
I’m sorry this post doesn’t include a sophisticated flow chart or formula you can drop in a PowerPoint for your next meeting. But try the three simple things I mentioned. Even better, give yourself the freedom to fail. Remember #3: be human. What’s more human than screwing up? You’ll find people will forgive people. They won’t forgive billboards.